Pittsburgh laid down a marker as they cruised to a 5-0 victory in Game 1 against the New York Islanders, a result that solidified their status as Cup favourites. Expect some animosity to carry over from that first game; there was some scrapping late on with the Isles clearly dealing with some bruised pride.
Pittsburgh's penalty kill might have been targeted as a weak spot but it stepped up big time to deny New York a route back in. The Pens certainly won the battle of the special teams with a couple of powerplay goals of their own and that is something Isles' coach Jack Capuano has to address. I believe the Islanders will keep it close at the very least; another thrashing and this series will get embarrassing very quickly. Back New York with a +1.5 start in the handicap at 1.70.
The Chicago Blackhawks can also go two up in their series versus Minnesota, but the unfancied Wild pushed them all the way to overtime on Tuesday. With Nicklas Backstrom injured in the warm-up it was up to Josh Harding to step in between the pipes for Minnesota and he excelled at short notice. Backstrom joins a growing injury list that includes Jason Pominville and Dany Heatley. Chicago will surely start the game quicker this time so the Wild will have to soak up a lot of pressure from the Hawks to get anything once again. Another tie through regulation is tempting at 4.15, but go with the Blackhawks to edge past in regulation at 1.67.
A strong third period propelled the San Jose Sharks past the Vancouver Canucks in their series opener. If they can repeat that trick later on today the Canucks will be in a deep hole and the crowd reaction at Rogers Arena might be a bit stronger than the few boos heard at the final buzzer last time out. Vancouver's star men were fairly anonymous in Game 1 compared to the likes of San Jose's Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, who weren't spectacular but were the eventual difference makers. After that victory on Wednesday the Sharks have to be worth a look here and are good value at 3.05.
Best bet: San Jose Sharks to win at 3.05